My first time riding on the back of a motorcycle was when I was seventeen years old. A friend of a friend – a burly yet soft-spoken Belgian man – took me on his Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 through the Scottish Highlands. As I felt the deep rumble of the engine in my belly for the first time, I was certain that this would not be my last time on a bike.
Cut to: present. I am sitting here with dense matted hair and a sweltering patch of wind rash on my face after a 500-mile ride over the past weekend. I am dirty. I am grimy. I am tired. Yet I have a shit-eating grin on my face. Last night my body ached in places I never knew existed – yet somehow, I’m dying to be back on the road again.
My long-time travel companion/biker extraordinaire Neil insisted that we wing it, that we go without a plan. I, on the other hand, had a Google doc on the ready.
Me: “We’ll have lunch in Astoria – I found this microbrewery on Yelp – then maybe head over to Fort Stevens at around one o’clo-”
Him: “We’ll go south.”
We ended up doing it his way. We simply went south.
From Seattle we made our way down to South Bend, Long Beach and Manzanita with a couple of detours in between. Unlike Southern California, the 101 on the North Coast is incredibly lush with majestic pine trees hugging the marred coastline. The temperature gently fluctuated as we wove in and out of deep forest enclaves; in the meanwhile, the Great Pacific kept a watchful eye on us beyond the trees. Along the way, we passed fellow bikers, boogie vans, decked out aluminum buses with a coffin on top. Oregon, you keep it weird. I like that.
Though we only had one full day of riding, the moments spent on that bike have been forever lodged into my bones. As we ripped down the sun-bleached highway through pristine beaches and pine tree groves, we were curiously suspended in time and space. Itineraries and future projections fell to the wayside as my immediate senses emerged to the fore. Life was pared down to its very essence – the engine growling underneath me, the sun beating down on my shoulders, the occasional whiff of kelp and ocean spray, the sweat beads forming on my skin. If freedom were a feeling, this would be it.
Oregon, you were good to us. We will be back soon.